Thursday, April 29, 2021

Beginner's Mind

This week I watched a video lecture on creativity delivered by Kermit the Frog. It started with a celebration of the Big Bang as the original creative act (although without references to a Deity). Kermit gave inspirational advice on ideas such as inspired craziness and thinking outside the standard rules. He speculated on why we're put in this world and declared our purpose is to be creative, for everybody is creative in some way. Here's the video in case you want to listen to it. (It's fairly long.)

Listening to a Talking Frog

One of the concepts discussed in the talk, "beginner's mind," particularly struck me.

The Beauty of Beginner's Mind

As I understand it, this means approaching experiences without being bound by preconceptions, as far as possible. The short essay on this page (a teaser to lure the visitor into deeper exploration) says the "wisdom of uncertainty frees us from. . . the thicket of views and opinions." As a result, "When we are free from views, we are willing to learn." The person in this frame of mind is compared to a child, who sees the world with fresh eyes.

That page doesn't explicitly link "beginner's mind" to the creative process, as Kermit's lecture does, but the connection is clear. An artist or inventor who embraces this mindset can hope to generate fresh, individual work not quite like anything that has gone before. The concept resonates with me because it reminds me of my creative process and emotions when I originally started writing stories. I produced my first writings, aside from class assignments and a couple of allegedly humorous science-fiction skits, at the age of thirteen. Reading DRACULA at age twelve had turned me on to vampires, horror, fantasy, and "soft" SF of all kinds. Because I was limited to the offerings of the local public library and one store that sold paperbacks, I got a solid grounding in Victorian and Edwardian classics and the vintage works of the major pulp authors before I ever read much recent speculative fiction or viewed any horror films—a circumstance I consider very fortunate. This reading inspired me to want to write my own fiction, since I couldn't afford to buy many books and the sources available to me didn't have enough of the kinds of stories I wanted—mainly relationships between human and "monstrous" characters. So I had to create them for myself.

Incidentally, my impulse to start writing didn't spring from internal drives alone. It had a technological catalyst, too: I got access to my aunt's old typewriter, left in my grandmother's house. Finding a textbook from my aunt's high-school typing class, I taught myself the rudiments of touch-typing. Whenever I stayed overnight or longer at my grandmother's, I typed stories (until my parents gave me a portable typewriter of my own, and I could compose fiction at home also without the constraint of handwriting). Similarly, the much later advent of word processing with our first computer in the early 1980s sparked my creativity anew by eliminating the necessity to retype whole pages, or even multiple pages, to correct small errors or insert minor revisions. The computer removed a barrier between my creative impulses and their concrete expression, making it possible to refine my work further. (No more qualms about whether changing a word or two was worth retyping a page.)

When I started producing stories, I had the "beginner's mind." I didn't know any of the conventional "rules" for fiction, only the basic grammar and spelling I'd learned in English classes. In fact, when I eventually submitted my first book to a publisher, I didn't know anything about publishing except that submissions had to be double-spaced on one side of the page and include a SASE. But that stage came later, of course. For the stories I wrote as a teenager, I imitated the elements I loved in the horror and speculative fiction I avidly read, while tweaking the themes and tropes in accordance with my own fantasies. Because I wasn't inhibited by knowing what I was "supposed" to do, the words flowed almost faster than I could get them onto the page. The process of writing itself enthralled me, and I spent as much time on it as I could spare from school, chores, and other obligations. My third completed piece was a single-spaced novelette over thirty pages long, in the form of the journal of a man inadvertently changing into a vampire.

Now that I know the "rules" and have more experience in recognizing flaws in my own writing (and that of others), I work slowly and laboriously. I proceed like the centipede who has trouble walking because he can't decide which foot to move first. I don't often enjoy the first-draft process very much, although I do like brainstorming, outlining, proofreading the nearly-finished outcome, and the fulfillment of "having written." I sometimes miss the "first, fine careless rapture" of my teens and early twenties. On the plus side, my work has grown far better than it was when I had no idea what I was doing. I finish novels rather than bogging down in the middle because I haven't plotted in advance. I produce fairly polished first drafts that don't elicit heavy revision requests from editors. If only one could keep the "beginner's mind" along with the benefits of learning and experience.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Afterthoughts Part 1


Part 1

In anticipation of there being more afterthoughts - plus a number of reviews and commentaries on long series of books - I put PART 1 in the title.  

At the moment, my everyday task list to keep life going smoothly takes up most of my time and all of my energy, but it is all getting done.

I have maybe 20 minutes of reading time a day -- not getting through books as fast as the best ones are published.  My life is very un-organized right now.

I have a bunch of Kindle books in to-be-read-and-reviewed.

I also did manage to watch (in short snatches) Episode 2 of Season 3 of HAWAII-5-O (the original series), which is about an astrologer -- but presents phony astrology along with a bit of actual factual astrology.  

I do love that show, but mostly for the casting. 

The watchword here is adding sex to science doesn't make it Science Fiction Romance. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Size Matters

If yours is small, April 26th is your day to shine.  

"Yours" meaning your IP enterprise. Why, because April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day, and for the entire week, the world is promoting and celebrating small and medium-sized IP- related enterprises.

If you offer services to copyright owners, you can visit an interactive world map and add your details. So far, there are a smattering of IP attorneys, but if you support authors, this is a great promo opportunity.

Don't wait for Monday to put yourself on the map. You might not be seen by the early birds.

Authors, maybe scramble to do a blog or organize an Event in celebration of Intellectual Property Day 2021.  You can promote it to the world here:

The Copyright Alliance is hosting a couple of events. 

On Tuesday April 27th, at 1.00 pm Eastern, they have "Creative Enterprises: Small  Business, BIG Impact", and on April 28th, at 1.00 pm Eastern, they have "Small Enterprises Making a BIG Difference; Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts." If you did not know that there are lawyers who will help creators for  free, look out for the VLA panel discussion.

For lots more information, events, ideas, and possible promo ops for members of the Copyright Alliance, click here:

If you only watch one message from a politician, check out Thom Tillis who has been a strong supporter of IP rights for authors. He is on the copyright alliance page, second down and is very succinct.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Ownership of Ideas

Volume 31, Issue 1 of the JOURNAL OF THE FANTASTIC IN THE ARTS includes an article by Dennis Wilson Wise on the literary development of EPVIDS (evil, possessed, vampire, demonic swords). He begins with the trope's modern origins in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Poul Anderson, who borrowed motifs from Finnish and Norse legends, which in turn share common roots. Wise then analyzes the uses of sentient, demonic swords by Michael Moorcock and other more recent sword-and-sorcery authors. The article fascinatingly highlights how the different writers incorporated the same archetypal concept into their fictional worlds in their own individual ways.

Editor John Campbell is said to have sometimes proposed the same plot or theme to several different contributors at once. Each writer would come up with a unique story, unlike any of the others. There are no completely "original" fiction ideas. Robert Heinlein claimed that only three basic plots exist. Space for creative "originality" lies in the execution of the idea.

I know of at least two anthologies based on filk songs that illustrate this principle. The fantasy anthology LAMMAS NIGHT, edited by Josepha Sherman, comprises a variety of stories based on Mercedes Lackey's song of that title. The volume begins with the lyrics of the song, followed by Lackey's own conversion of the poem into a prose narrative. The rest of the stories develop the premise in many different directions. CARMEN MIRANDA'S GHOST IS HAUNTING SPACE STATION THREE, edited by Don Sakers, plays a similar game with a Leslie Fish song. Long ago, I read an anthology weaving variations on the plot of "The Highwayman," the classic poem by Alfred Noyes (unfortunately, I don't remember the book's title).

Vivian Vande Velde's single-author collection THE RUMPELSTILTSKIN PROBLEM explores six different angles on the traditional fairy tale, offering explanations for the details that don't seem to make sense. (For example, if the little man can spin straw into gold, why would he care about getting the heroine's ring and necklace as rewards?) And other authors have created their own versions of Rumpelstiltskin, such as Naomi Novik in SPINNING SILVER. Among countless re-imaginings of "Beauty and the Beast," Robin McKinley wrote two, and Mercedes Lackey has published three.

These works demonstrate a truth Lackey repeats over and over on Quora, in answer to questions from naive aspiring authors: "You cannot copyright an idea."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Theme-Character Integration Part 17 Building a Lead Character from Theme

Theme-Character Integration

Part 17

Building a Lead Character from Theme

Previous posts in this Theme-Character Integration series are indexed here:

The essence of story is CONFLICT. 

If you have a "story idea" - the key to developing the Characters who live out and thus illustrate (show don't tell) your story idea is to answer the question, "Who would have to conquer (insert story idea problem) in order to live Happily Ever After?" 

Plot (as I use the term throughout these Tuesday posts) is a series of events connected by "because." Plot is all about what people do in response to stimuli in their environment -- "environment" being the world you build for the characters which stimulates the particular character to live out the events that illustrate your story idea.  Sometimes a novel first surfaces in your vision as a Plot Idea. 

Story is the sequence of changes a Character undergoes while living out the events of your plot which is the result of the environment the Character is embedded in.

The Romances I love best start with the Lead Character departing their environment and plunging (often willy-nilly) into a new environment they have to figure out as they go.

Re-read the opening of THE LORD OF THE RINGS - it is iconic. The most interesting part of a lead character's life starts when they leave their Hobbit Hole.

So a change of environment (going on vacation, being evicted from an apartment, divorcing, marrying, quitting a job, being "head-hunted" by a firm giving you a job way over your head)  makes a human much more keenly aware of environment, and brings long-held routine choices done subconsciously up into conscious choices.

Conscious choices cause actions which are the events of the because-line of Plot.

The way a Character handles change of environment depends almost entirely on their ability to judge other people -- and that ability accurately assess others is a product of the previous environment.

The ability to assess others accurately (insight) is a learned ability - usually learned in the school of hard knocks, for example marrying the wrong person then getting divorced and having children's lives displaced.

The process of learning to judge others accurately, and thus move smoothly through life, managing difficult situations generates plot which reshapes Character, producing Story.

For example, pulling a group together to produce a salutary result (e.g. organizing the parents of the PTA to pressure the school board to increase college opportunities for the system's Science Curriculum graduates) would make a first book in a Romance Series with a powerful heroine destined to be elected Governor, maybe President, over decades -- lots of novels.

We're talking LEADERSHIP here. 

What does it take to be a leader? 

What element of Character do you need to propel your Theme into the stark, clear, questioning hearts of the readers?

One indispensable trait of Leader Characters is the ability to see into the heart and soul of Others -- to understand what is going on inside others and then place those others into positions where their short-comings actually become major assists in the project.

In other words, the Leadership Trait that you, the writer, get to develop in your Lead Character is the ability to develop more Leaders.

THEME: Human society must mature to where every individual is a Leader.

CHARACTER: The victim of an online Bully, despised by parents for not fighting back effectively, secretly wins a Scholarship to Harvard and leaves home to earn a way into the Space Program.

To compete at Harvard (or pick a School with high standards), you not only have to be smart, you have to gain an understanding of the hearts and souls of your competition.

What you choose to do with that understanding reveals your strength of character. 

And there's your story generating plot -- the character destined to become a Leader gains a little power by understanding the competition and chooses to behave differently than HS classmates or parents behaved when they had power over the character. 

Why do they choose differently, and what difference do they choose to impose on their behavior? That's the story.

The plot is all about the consequences of those choices and what HAPPENS as a consequence of the consequence.

Is that beginning to sound like Harry Potter?

Here is an article to read about judging others, and how the ability to judge correctly can be employed.  Read to the bottom of the page to discover why it is titled DOUBLE STANDARD.

Note particularly what you can do in a Romance with a Character who sees in another a piercing Truth the other is not aware of.  


Pirkei Avot
Judge every man to the side of merit

Ethics of the Fathers, 1:6        


On the most elementary level, this means that if you discern a negative trait in your fellow or you see him commit a negative act, do not judge him guilty in your heart. "Do not judge your fellow until you are in his place," warns another of the Ethics' sayings, and his place is one place where you will never be. You have no way of truly appreciating the manner in which his inborn nature, his background or the circumstances that hold sway over his life have influenced his character and behavior.

However, this only explains why you should not judge your fellow guilty. Yet our Mishnah goes further than this, enjoining us to "judge every man to the side of merit." This implies that we should see our fellow's deficiencies in a positive light. But what positive element is implied by a person's shortcomings and misdeeds?

Differently Equal

An explanation may be found in another Talmudic saying: "Whoever is greater than his fellow, his inclination (for evil) is also greater." - a rule crucial to our understanding of a fundamental principle of Torah, man's possession of "free choice" regarding his actions.

Indeed, how can we consider a person's choices to be free and uncoerced, when there is so much inequality in life? Can we compare the moral performance of an individual whose character was shaped by a loving family, a stable environment and a top-notch education with that of one who has experienced only rootlessness, violence and despair? Can we compare a person who has naturally and effortlessly been blessed with a superior mind and a compassionate heart to one who has no so been privileged? Are their choices equally "free"? Are they equally accountable for their actions?

------end quote------

There are several hundred Science Fiction Romance SERIES of long novels wrapped up in this very condensed outline of a question about Character vs Action, about Story vs Plot.

The essence of story is Conflict. Inner conflict generates story -- external conflict generates plot -- THEME connects the two.

Why is this a principle of ART -- of novels? Because that is the structure of the universe which we recognize subconsciously but just can't quite grasp consciously.

In fact, consciously, humans tend to fight this idea is if it is an existential threat.  

The idea that those with the potential for greatest good have that potential for true great-goodness BECAUSE they also have an equally gigantic potential for Evil -- and that CONFLICT within the great leaders, movers and shakers, (such as Elon Musk?) is what generates their life story, and the public life's plot.

To become a fully mature species able to take a productive place in Galactic Society, humanity may need a social structure which cradles, buffers, develops and supports Leadership in everyone, but particularly those with the strongest inclination toward Evil.

If we could take our worst villains and point their energies at a productive target (colonizing Mars?), and cheer them on shouting their praises for doing GOOD, perhaps Evil would be vastly diminished -- to the point where the UFO people watching us from afar might invite us into Galactic Civilization.

If that's your theme, find the Character with the potential to settle that internal conflict in such a way that it reconfigures the external (public) conflict into a peaceful resolution.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Non-Fungible Future?

There was once a man who bought an original sketch in an inventory-draw-down sale. The sketch was done during the course of employment by a moderately well known designer. So far, so good.  The buyer was an EBay seller, and he created dozens of prints of the original sketch, which he auctioned on EBay week after week for years. That was questionable.

Lawfully, one cannot purchase a drawing, painting, photograph, cartoon, musical record, novella or novel  (even in e-book form) and proceed to create copies and sell them. Not unless the original creator formally assigned the copyright.

Now, there is Blockchain, and Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs. It seems that a single work of art that is sold as a NFT can be sold on, but not duplicated, and a modest royalty can be paid to the original creator with every down-market sale and resale.

Can creatives and celebrities rejoice? 

Lexology link:
Seemingly, so say legal bloggers Jeffrey Madrak and  Agatha H. Liu PhD for the IP law firm Hickman Becker Bingham Ledesma:
"Non-fungible tokens, or “NFTs” are taking the digital world by storm. Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, recently sold an autographed tweet associated with an NFT for $2.9 million. Super Bowl champion Tom Brady just announced the launch of the NFT platform he has cofounded that will offer digital collectibles. Such popular use with highly appraised items begs the question – What actually is an NFT? And for those of us in the high-tech world, the further question – How do NFTs relate to intellectual property?"

 They go on to explain:

"An NFT is a digital version of a certificate of authenticity (a token), secured and embedded in a blockchain. When an NFT is created, digital information including the creator’s name and other programmatic details such as the creator’s blockchain wallet address are linked to an underlying asset and stored in a blockchain (while the underlying asset might not be stored in the blockchain). Because NFTs are secured by a blockchain, no one can modify the record of ownership or copy/paste a new NFT into existence."

For authors in particular, author Maggie Lynch has put up a comprehensive blog post on the topic, in which she lays out the pros and cons for adopting the technology. 

Herewith, a quote of a small portion, with permission and attribution to Maggie Lynch and her blog.

"Here are some ideas of how an average author might consider creating NFTs. I’m sure there are many more I haven’t even considered yet.

  • Digital 1st edition released in limited numbers prior to a book being released en masse to retailers
  • A collectible version of a backlist book or a recent release that has different art or added art pertaining to the story
  • A special edition boxset that is not offered in retail markets and won’t be offered in retail markets
  • A bundled special edition that includes ebook, audiobook, and a shipped hardback book as a package
  • A 1st edition Live Reading before the book is released widely, whether narrated by the author or a paid narrator
  • Additional works of art based on your characters that are sold as separate digital art, playing cards, and/or provides information not in the books but germane to the story
  • Tiers of special editions – Platinum tier: Only 25 copies are made of original offering which includes additional art, audiobook, and a special edition hardback delivered signed and numbered. Gold tier: 500 copies of special edition which includes everything but hardback. Silver tier: 1,000 copies of digital special edition which includes additional art.  After this, the book is released as a regular ebook, print, audio all separate without any special edition things to the wider marketplace.
  • A digital object that helps your reader solve a puzzle inside the book.
  • A digital object that allows your reader to select two or more alternative endings
  • A way for the buyer to have a video call with you for a specified period of time or to book you for a limited part of friends (book group, family, etc.)
  • You could use one or more of your NFTs as part of a contest or giveaway to create buzz and get people interested in the platform

All of these are additional opportunities for PR, promo, buzz, and have the potential to also influence regular retail sales of your book products. Doing NFTs is one more market for you. I would not leave the usual mass markets just to do NFTs. Instead I would add NFTs as another way to gain income, at least until it proves it is the only way that makes sense for you to market your books."

Legal blogger Sophie Goossens, representing Reed Smith LLP, (a British law blog) takes a dimmer view of NFTs when it comes to ownership of works of art in a blog titled "You Think You Own An NFT? Think Again." She is, of course, speaking to art connoisseurs.
"Can one own a physical a piece of art? Yes. What do you own: the 'tangible property' i.e. the canvas, the statue, the physical sheet of paper embodying the work. Do you own the intellectual property in a piece of art just because you hold the original or a limited edition of it? No, if you want to own the intellectual property in the artwork, it needs to be assigned to you from the creator, by contract."
Sophie Goossens asks and answers several more interesting questions about possession and ownership of art and digital art.
Last (but not least), Pramod Chintalapoodi of the Chip Law Group takes a look at the legal implications of NFTs, and warns:
"The NFT's usefulness when it comes to IP rights is currently limited, and even problematic. The dilemma here is that ownership of NFT does not translate into ownership of an original work. In other words, buying an NFT does not mean that one is buying the underlying IP rights in a given content. Section 106 of the US Copyright Act states that a copyright owner has exclusive rights in reproducing and preparing derivative works. They also have exclusive rights in distributing the copyrighted work. Buying a piece of art does not mean that the copyright to that artwork transfers to the buyer."

The bottom line seems to be that NFTs may be good for thwarting pirates and exploiters, and are therefore good for creators of art and literature.... but, one has to be prepared to adopt Ethereum.

Coindesk has put up a How-To guide to entering the NFT market:

All the best,

Rowena Cherry  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Rule of Six

RWR, the official magazine of Romance Writers of America, has a regular article series called "Your Writing Coach," by Shirley Jump. In the April 2021 issue (alas, planned as the final print issue, with the publication switching to digital-only) Jump explains the "rule of six," a term originally derived from the advertising business. Since RWR articles aren't available to non-members, I want to summarize this thought-provoking concept here. According to research on human memory, the most items we can easily remember at one time equal five. Therefore, in the realm of consumer goods, when we think of popular brands of commonly used items, four or five spring to mind immediately. It's harder to think of a sixth or higher-numbered item in a category. The purpose of advertising is to implant certain products in the audience's "top of mind" awareness, so that if we're looking to buy a new refrigerator (for example) the client's appliance brand will pop up in the customer's consciousness first.

Jump connects this principle with the craft of writing by applying it to brainstorming story elements such as characters, plots, and motivations. The themes, tropes, and scenarios we think of first will be those we've encountered over and over in our recreational reading and viewing. To come up with something fresh, we have to push ourselves beyond "top of mind" responses. The article urges writers to consciously attempt to think of at least six answers to each brainstorming question. When we reach the point where it's hard to dig up an idea that's not a variation on one of the others, we're getting somewhere. The author says if those fifth and sixth ideas flow too easily, we aren't doing it right. As she puts it, "you really have to reach deep into your imagination to come up with something truly unique." Now, I read that comment with reservations, since I doubt any "truly unique" plot twists, character types, or motivations exist. Just browse with your "unique" concept as a search term, and you'll probably discover it isn't "something that hasn't been done before." In my opinion, Jump is more on target when she recommends trying for "a really cool spin."

So, to invent a fresh answer to the "what's next" question in plotting, you'd list the ideas that come to you most readily and dig deeper for those fourth, fifth, and sixth possibilities. Jump demonstrates with a scenario of a sexy guy driving a minivan. What's he doing there? She moves from the obvious (dropping off children at school, his own or a relative's) to the progressively unusual (e.g., "he stole the minivan to go after his kidnapped best friend"). She suggests exploring six external and six internal goals, motivations, and conflicts for each major character. Done thoroughly, this exercise in itself should generate a wealth of plot ideas. She mentions flipping gender roles as one way to freshen up a familiar scenario or character type. Long ago, I read a Western romance with a twist on the often-seen plot premise of freeing a criminal from prison to perform a task or participate in a vital mission. The title was something like "The Virgin and the Outlaw." The virgin was a bachelor needing help on his ranch; the outlaw was a woman from out of town incarcerated in the local jail.

Suppose I want to conceive of an entertaining, conflict-generating "cute meet" for my hero and heroine? Their children or pets get them together. (Been done a million times.) They clash as strangers, maybe literally bumping into each other on foot or in cars, or arguing in a store or other neutral venue, then walk into a business or political meeting or a job interview to run into each other again. (Been done in a multitude of variations.) One of them hits the other with a car. (I included versions of that in one of my vampire romances and in a shapeshifter novel, and I've seen similar incidents in other paranormal romances.) A volunteer in an animal shelter encounters a werewolf mistaken for a dog. (Not my idea but the premise of a novella I once read, and I wish I'd thought of it first.)

If you search the phrase "meet cute" on TV Tropes, you'll find several dozens of these kinds of scenarios. And, as TV Tropes reminds us, tropes are not bad. "Tropes are just tools. Writers understand tropes and use them to control audience expectations either by using them straight or by subverting them, to convey things to the audience quickly without saying them." Because "human beings are natural pattern seekers," the existence of tropes is inevitable. To return to the RWR article about the rule of six, the trick is to put your own "cool spin" on the familiar patterns by refusing to settle for the first plot twist, goal, motivation, or character type generated by the "top of mind" phenomenon. While the outcome probably won't be "something that hasn't been done before," it will display your unique touch as an individual creator.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Passover Muffins with Almond Flour

Passover Muffins with Almond Flour

This blog series on Romance genre blending with Science Fiction, and how the inside of a writer's mind grinds fine ideas and churns out novels, is winding down.

With my husband reaching 92 this year, his care is taking all my time an energy. I have some more books to review here, and other topics to discuss, but this may well be the last post here from me for quite a while. We shall see. 

I've done a number of other Star Trek interviews recently, and accepted an invitation into a Shared World anthology which I have a really neat idea for - my first time-travel story.  So far, no romance has entered the picture, but it is there somewhere. If the anthology sells, I'll have to write it to discover who is falling in love and thus changing Time Itself.

Meanwhile, with so many folks trying gluten-free diets, here is one of my favorites using almond flour.


4 Dozen Passover Almond Flour Muffins

8 Cups Passover Almond Flour

1 cup plus 3 TBS of Passover Oil (Olive or Walnut works)

16 eggs

1 1/3 cups water (might not need to add all, depending on size of eggs)

Flavorings (whatever's handy)

1) preheat oven to 350

2) Olive oil muffin tins (or use paper liners, whatever's handy)

3) Mix dry ingredients (with dry flavorings - plain chocolate powder, not "Dutched"), cinnamon, nutmeg, anything handy -- so sugar or carbs).

4)Separate eggs, beat yolks with liquid flavorings if any are handy -  plus vanilla, orange extracts - whatever in creative combinations,) beat whites to stiff peaks

5) Add water but take care not to add too much, reserve some for later if needed

6)Stir in yolks, any wet flavoring, then fold in egg whites

7) check consistency for spooning into muffin tins, add water if needed (hopefully not after adding egg whites)

8) Put in muffin tins, bake for 15 mins, cool on rack - extract from tins, pack in ziplock backs to freeze when they stop steaming. (I generally use 2 freezer ziplocks, one inside the other to prevent freezer burn)

I generally make two or three times this 4 dozen recipe with different flavor combinations - Shlomo likes them!  I make them bigger so they actually come out 2 dozen from the 4-dozen recipe.  If you have passover baking powder, you can use some - about 2 tsp per dozen, but it adds salt and ruins the flavor.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 11, 2021

On The Shady Side... Of Green

Greenwashing has been a "thing" for some time. Now shareholders are making proposals based on it.

What is greenwashing? My spellcheck doesn't like the word. Apparently, it is the environmental equivalent of whitewashing, and it's been in use for thirty years.  With whitewashing, one spins something "bad" to sound "not so bad".  With greenwashing, one spins something not environmentally friendly to seem... environmentally responsible. It's mostly a PR and honest advertising issue. It may involve oxymorons such as "clean diesel", maybe "clean coal", and "100% organic".

Legal bloggers for Jenner & Block LLP  Todd Toral and P. J. Novack penned an interesting explanation of greenwashing, and a groundbreaking attempt by Greenpeace and others to use the old Green Guides offensively against a Big Oil company for, allegedly, misleading consumers about the greenness and social responsibility of its work.

Speaking of Honest advertising, the legal blogsphere is buzzing (a little bit) about dishonest influencers.  Apparently, the public is not smart enough to figure out that if a celebrity endorsement looks like for profit product placement, sounds like paid product placement... it most probably is a glorified advertisement.  The thing is, ones greenback-related motivations have to be disclosed every time, and perhaps the same goes for book promotion.

For the IP Law Watch blog of law firm K&L Gates of Boston, blogger Keisha Phippen discusses the topic of responsible influencing, and offers excellent and easy tips for how to avoid acting on the shady side of the law.

Finally, for today's loosely linked theme of shady doings, green stuff, money and deception is a great green gem about ransomware put out by Stephen Noel O'Connor of Leman.

Go here for the full article as a .pdf
Or read the extract here:

Did you know that in some countries in may be illegal to pay ransomware? 

Oh, and if you got the letter from Kroger about their pharmacy records being hacked at Accellion, remember there is a time limit (window closes May 31st)  to take up that offer for 24 months of Experian "Identity Works" id theft coverage. Separately, American Anesthesiology was compromised in a phishing attack. It might be wise to freeze your credit (free to do, easy and free to undo as long as you retain your PIN).

Equifax 1-800-525-6285
Experian 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
All the best,

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Starting Afresh

Kameron Hurley's newest LOCUS column discusses making a fresh start with the turn from winter to spring:

Plotting the Way Forward

Noting that the ancient Romans marked the New Year in March rather than January, Hurley muses about the signs of spring that show up in March. This year, she finds particular hope in the change of seasons because a potential end to the COVID crisis may be in sight. She ponders what is meant by "returning to normal": What will go back to the way it was? What will have changed permanently? As she puts it, “'normal' is a shifting target. After the last year, our world will not be quite the same."

One change she welcomes is the decline of shopping malls. Here I disagree. I'm a big fan of malls, even though with online ordering I haven't frequented our local mall in recent years nearly so much as I used to (especially after its chain bookstore closed). Sure, a green-space town center with a cluster of shops, within easy walking distance of home, would be lovely. But that's not likely to sprout up out of nowhere near us (all the ground within walking distance being occupied by houses or, if one has the stamina to hike one-point-three miles to the main road, existing stores). Nor does it describe the neighborhoods where I spent the years between age eight and moving out of my parents' home to get married. We lived in the suburbs. There was nowhere to walk except other houses and, a longish trek from our home, a major highway at the entrance to the development. A very long bike ride could take us to a shopping strip with one large store and several smaller ones. When the first actual mall opened near us (in the greater Norfolk, Virginia, area), in my teens, I was thrilled about the concept of shopping at a bunch of stores in the same location, with plenty of parking, under a ROOF! That last was a big deal in one of the more rainy regions of the country. And I still think malls are a great idea in places where most people depend on cars to get anywhere, which describes every city we've lived in throughout our married life.

But I digress. Some of the changes Hurley welcomes, I can agree with. As for the ambition to "re-think our crowded buildings in crowded cities that have few to no greenspaces," that sounds desirable, but such a revolution can't occur with the simple wave of a wand. Shifting many jobs to remote work is a change I'd like to see made permanent, if only for the sake of our grown children who've benefited from it. What about universal mask-wearing? I look forward to not having to do that all the time, yet I agree with Hurley on the advantage of getting sick less often. I could embrace a custom of wearing masks out and about when suffering from a mild illness, as many people do in Japan. As a probable side effect of the COVID precautions, I haven't had a cold in over a year. Hurley also looks forward to future advances in medical science as a result of discoveries made in the course of vaccine research. Like wars, pandemics can produce occasional positive technological side effects.

I've missed attending church in person, but I hope after we resume live gatherings our church will continue to record Sunday services for availabilty to people who can't be present for one reason or another. The pandemic has compelled us to try many such innovations that would be helpful to hang onto. The ubiquity of restaurant meal ordering, for example—it's become easier than ever before to get home-delivered meals from a wide variety of our favorite places, on websites instead of over the phone, prepaid with a credit card. With the success of virtual conventions in the past year, maybe some of them will continue to provide an online track for fans who can't make it to the physical location. However, there's at least one minor negative about the increasing shift to electronic media, from my personal viewpoint: More and more periodicals are switching to digital-only. I like magazines I can hold in my hands and, if worth rereading, store on a shelf.

A related trend that predated COVID but may have accelerated recently is the convenience of being able perform many activities such as financial and government transactions over the Web. No need to drive to the bank to transfer funds, the post office to buy stamps, or the motor vehicle office to renew a car registration. This trend is likely to continue and expand. Of course, the downside involves less convenience for people who don't have a computer (my 90-year-old aunt, for one, but many citizens lack computers and their associated functions from poverty, not choice) or adequate internet access. As has often been pointed out recently, computers with internet connections are no longer luxuries but household necessities on a level with water, electric, and phone services.

Hurley concludes by invoking March, which heralds spring in much of the northern hemisphere, as the time "when we celebrate surviving the very worst the world could throw at us, and plot a new way forward." Or, as Brad Paisley says in his optimistic song "Welcome to the Future," highlighting modern marvels formerly enjoyed only in the realm of science fiction, "Wherever we were going, hey, we're here."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Theme-Story Integration Part 8 - Game Theory And Public Relations The Epiphany Revisited

Theme-Story Integration

Part 8

 Game Theory And Public Relations 

One way to craft an immersive world into which to drop Characters is to take two elements of the "real" world, combine them, and let your blood boil until you're angry enough to ask a question your readers have not (yet) asked themselves.  

This process won't lead you directly to a "narrative hook" or the beginning of a story, but it will begin to reveal the theme that is rooted in the guts of your being, and that will yield a narrative hook.

Mostly, when you start this process, you become utterly inarticulate -- you can't put a word or a name to what you're feeling, and have no idea why it disturbs you.

It is your own internal conflict arising to compel you to write your story - the magnum opus of a lifetime.

It is the theme of your life, and inside that theme lies the point which connects you to all other humans of your generation, particularly those younger, or those less experienced.

Vocabulary must be expanded to cope with the nascent thoughts that churn upwards disturbing your view of the world.  Sometimes just randomly reading a dictionary or encyclopedia like Wikipedia can bring the vocabulary, and thus the tools with which to think the thoughts that will define your story's theme, into sharp focus.

A story isn't a plot, and it takes both to create a novel. A story by itself might yield a vignette or series of them - a randomized tapestry of scenes, not connected by anything.

A story is all about how emotions churn, become powered, arise and command actions (often ill chosen decisions).  A story is the evolution of wisdom within an individual.

But to craft a novel from a Story, the writer must find a PLOT.

A plot is the sequence of actions the Character initiates that cause Events, which cause more events, until the consequences of the initial action splash back on the Character and trigger an epiphany.

The epiphany in an action novel happens at the 3/4 point in the book -- in a Romance, ordinarily the "that's my man!" epiphany happens at the 1/3 point -- and in other sorts of drama, that turning point is the 1/2 point.

Knowing which genre you are writing in will help you find the narrative hook, the opening line of page 1, and the Conflict you must define on  page 1 and resolve on the last page.

By placing the epiphany that redirects the main character's thinking, and feeling, and thus action according to the genre, you will zero in on the Narrative Hook -- and within that Narrative Hook's choice of vocabulary, you will find the seeds of your epiphany.

Following this method of generating immersive novels will likely launch you into a 20 year writing project.  I have witnessed a few writers struggling with a novel they feel they must write and rewriting it for decades, eventually coming out with a theme-story integrated work of Art that is head and shoulders above previously published works.

It is the topic that makes your blood boil that leads to being able to finish a 20 or even 30 year war with the words of your novel.

You'll get the words right only if you're mad enough when you start, if what you have to say is gut-wrenchingly important to you, and you know how to explain that importance to your readers.

As noted above, one fertile source of such ideas is Wikipedia. Much of what you find there is not actually, wholly, true -- but the contents of wikipedia do reflect what a huge swath of the population thinks is true.

What is true vs what a majority thinks is true is a quintessential Conflict which works marvelously for Science Fiction and for Romance genre.  

The discovery that what you think is true, is in fact not true, is an "epiphany."  Or what is now termed "woke" - a state of mind where your eyes suddenly see something different than they did only one blink previously.

The world has not changed, but your method of interpreting it has.

You can study this effect just by staring at one of the optical illusion memes that streak across the internet from time to time.

Blink and it's two vases - blink again and it's two faces. The lines of the drawing haven't changed!  

When you've been hoodwinked, scammed, fooled, made into a patsy, robbed blind, victimized by disinformation, and don't know it, it is two vases -- but suddenly you know it, and it's two faces.

The scam and your position as a victim hasn't changed -- you have.

That change in you is your STORY.

How, why, and when you BLINK (blinking is an action) is your PLOT.

Here is a Wikipedia juxtaposition of well known processes that, if understood in a wider context, can lead to that sort of EPIPHANY at the core of Theme-Story Integration -- the realization that you have been fooled that comes because you have changed, not because your world changed.


Wikipedia - the place to find what people think is true

Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction among rational decision-makers.[1] It has applications in all fields of social science, as well as in logic, systems science and computer science. Originally, it addressed zero-sum games, in which each participant's gains or losses are exactly balanced by those of the other participants. In the 21st century, game theory applies to a wide range of behavioral relations, and is now an umbrella term for the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, and computers.


Public relations (PR) is the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public in order to affect the public perception. Public relations (PR) and publicity differ in that PR is controlled internally, whereas publicity is not controlled and contributed by external parties.[1] Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.[2] This differentiates it from advertising as a form of marketing communications. Public relations aims to create or obtain coverage for clients for free, also known as 'earned media', rather than paying for marketing or advertising. But in the early 21st century, advertising is also a part of broader PR activities.[3]


Conflict arises (thus plot arises) from discovering how decision makers have "gamed" you by carefully curating the information you have access to.

If you do something about it, they will do something to you.  

Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Piling On

Income for "creatives" is estimated to have dropped 42% in the last decade, according to the Authors Guild, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and some of the Southern States are not helping at all.

Take Georgia's SB 226.  Apparently, it would allow school principals to post copyrighted works in their entirety, online, free to all, with no apparent compensation to the authors or other copyright owners/holders, for up to four years.

What could possibly go wrong?  

How could an author sell a book if one teacher who wanted the book on the curriculum could lodge a claim that the book is objectionable or harmful to minors, and then the State or local board of education could over-rule that teacher's objection, and for the next four years, no school or student would have to purchase or rent that book?

Georgia may be safe from infringement suits. It would appear that the Supreme Court of the United States permits States to violate the copyrights of authors and photographers and other creatives with impunity... if the South Carolina Blackbeard case is precedent.

All the best,

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Special Days

Here's a website that lists all the official, quasi-official, or just plain weird celebratory and commemorative days in the year:

National Day Calendar

Every date has multiple entries, so you should be able to find a special day for just about anything you want to celebrate. The explanatory page for each entry includes the commemoration's origin. Some that aren't official holidays have been established by individuals or organizations, while for others the website says it's still "researching" the source. In other words, they don't know. Since apparently anyone can register and add a day to the calendar, it's possible some of these "special days" are simply things made up by people who thought they would sound cool. They're fun to contemplate, anyway.

Here's a page on the history and possible origins of April Fool's Day:

April Fool's Day

These are just a few of the many "days" listed for this week in 2021, in addition to April Fool's Day and the Christian observances of Holy Week events: March 29 -- National Nevada Day, Lemon Chiffon Cake Day, Mom and Pop Business Owners Day, Vietnam War Veterans Day. (I suspect this last one is real for sure.) March 30 -- Take a Walk in the Park Day, I Am in Control Day, Virtual Vacation Day (probably a new invention for the current situation). March 31 -- Bunsen Burner Day, Clams on the Half Shell Day, Manatee Appreciation Day (founded by an organization dedicated to protecting endangered marine animals). This year April 1, April Fool's Day, is also dedicated to sourdough bread and burritos, as well as the regular annual National Take Down Tobacco Day, whose exact date varies. April 2 -- World Autism Awareness Day and National Reconciliation Day, plus an occasion to appreciate ferrets and peanut-butter-and-jelly (presumably not together). April 3 -- National Chocolate Mousse Day, Find a Rainbow Day, and Love Our Children Day (always the first Saturday in April, according to the website). April 4 -- in addition to being Easter Sunday this year, it celebrates school librarians, newspersons, geologists, and vitamin C, among other entities worthy of recognition. It's also listed as National Walk Around Things Day. Well, that's preferable to Tripping Over Things Day. :)

I can enthusiastically support Chocolate Mousse Day, for one. As for today, it's also designated National One Cent Day. The website doesn't identify its origin, but they offer an interesting overview of the history of the U.S. penny, of which we keep a can-full in a drawer, as many people do:

National One Cent Day

When my husband and I got married, in the mid-1960s, some gumball machines sold candy for one cent, and a retro bargain store near our first apartment carried a few items priced at a penny each. The value of a penny faded to essentially nothing long ago, yet we still understand what's meant by the proverb, "A penny saved is a penny earned."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt